Air Force Academy Rape Case: Defense Attorneys Say Sex Was Consensual

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How does a preliminary hearing determine whether there will be a court-martial?

A charge of rape has recently been filed against Mark Czerner, a junior at the Air Force Academy in Boulder, Colorado. The academy has reported that a preliminary hearing has been held to determine whether there is enough evidence for the accused to face a court-martial on two counts of sexual assault and one count of wrongful (abusive) sexual contact. Both the prosecution’s case and Czerner’s defense have been presented to a hearing judge so that it may determined whether a court-martial will take place.

What is alleged to have occurred on the day in question?

The charge stems from an incident that occurred last Valentine’s Day when it is alleged that Czerner, an honor student at the academy, forcibly raped a classmate. According to the testimony given, Czerner went flying with the female classmate in the early morning of February 14th, not an unusual practice at the academy where short air flights for training often take place on the weekend.

The alleged victim, who did not herself give testimony at the hearing, claims that Czerner groped her during the flight, making her extremely uncomfortable, and that later, as he drove her back to her dorm in his car, he drove to an isolated road on the 18,500-acre campus and assaulted her.

The alleged victim says that she was forcibly kissed while fighting Czerner off, but that he eventually stroked her thigh, digitally penetrated and then raped her. Air Force Academy prosecutors contend that there is more than enough evidence, including DNA evidence and text messages between the two parties, for Czerner to be court-martialed.

What defense has been put forth?

The four defense attorneys argued that the sex between the two parties was consensual and attempted to substantiate their view by claiming that the woman could have gotten out of the car to avoid her attacker and that it would have been very difficult for Czerner to remove her flight suit, with its single zipper, while she protested.

The case is complicated by the defendant’s peculiar behavior in the courtroom, which included facial tics, twitching and grunting, but it is unknown whether, or how, this will affect the decision. The hearing officer will review all pertinent documents and testimony and issue a written report shortly, determining whether the defendant will be court-martialed.

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